Exploring the First Coast: Macclenny
Metro Jacksonville visits the downtown of a small town community just outside of our city limits: Macclenny.
Published August 13, 2015 in Neighborhoods - MetroJacksonville.com
During the mid-19th century, a small community began to grown on filled marsh near the Little Saint Mary's River 28 miles west of Jacksonville. Located along the Florida Railway & Navigation Company Railroad on property owned by the Darby family, the rural community became known as Darbyville. Early growth in Darbyville came after the Civil War as Northerners settled in the state for health, curiosity and investment.
By the 1880s, when neighboring Jacksonville was enjoying the Gilded Age, Darbyville was still a little village with dusty streets. While Jacksonville's economy diversified as it grew into Florida's largest city of the era, Darbyville's economy was anchored by turpentine and logging. In 1890, Darbyville was renamed Macclenny after Carr Bowers McClenny, who married one of the Darby girls and purchased most of the land in the area. At the time, the city had a population of 334 residents. Growth would remain fairly stagnant throughout the first half of the 20th century. Despite the statewide land boom of the 1920s, the city's population had only grown to 519 by 1930. Prior to World War II, Macclenny's population remained less than 1,000.
The completion of Interstate 10 through Baker County has led to significant growth and opportunity in the area. Today, Macclenny covers 4.7 square miles and is home to nearly 6,500 residents. Between 2000 and 2010, the city's population has grown by 43%, signaling that its best days appear to be ahead of it.
US 90/Macclenny Avenue
Macclenny Avenue, also known as US 90 and Beaver Street in Jacksonville, is the primary thoroughfare through downtown Macclenny. Between 1890 and 1940, Macclenny's population increased by 437 to 771 residents. Since 1940, the majority of the city's growth has been outward, preserving the small town rural charm of the city's core.
Baker County Courthouse
SR 228/North 5th Street
5th Street, also designated as State Road 228 connects downtown Macclenny with Interstate 10 and Folkston, GA.
Originally known as Darbyville, Macclenny was settled 28 miles west of downtown Jacksonville along the Florida Railway & Navigation Company Railroad. A one-way fare between the cities was $1.40. A roundtrip ticket cost $2.10.
The Old Baker County Courthouse was built in 1908. It is now the Emily Taber Public Library.
The Baker County Historical Society took over the old county jail after it was deemed unfit for prisoners in the 1970s.
SR 121/North 6th Street
Like 5th Street, 6th Street, also designated as State Road 121 connects downtown Macclenny with Interstate 10. Since the 1950s, the majority of the city's commercial development has sprouted up around I-10 interchanges with SR 121 and SR 228. Most of the city's residential growth has occurred north of downtown Macclenny.
Heritage Park Village
Home to Macclenny's 1924 railroad depot, Heritage Park Village is one of the most interesting public spaces in Northeast Florida. The 3.5-acre park includes a collection of preserved structures and artifacts that spans 150 years of Macclenny's history.
Baker County residents banded together to save Maclenny's historic railroad depot in 1986 when the Seaboard Railroad announced its intention to demolish the structure. The property it was relocated to eventually became Heritage Park Village.
The Blue Haven Restaurant opened in 1947 and was Baker County's first drive-in restaurant. Paul Rhoden's Rexal drug store operated from the 1940s until 1993. Memorabilia from these businesses' heyday are housed inside these structures.
Knabb Turpentine was once the country's largest turpentine operation of its kind. During the Knabb family's heyday, the business worked 50,000 acres of slash pine.
The Burnsed Blockhouse is the last example of original block house architecture remaining in Florida. One of a series of block house structures, it was constructed across the north Florida frontier by order of then Governor Andrew Jackson. Block houses acted as protective fortresses for settlers against raiding parties of Seminole Indians who were on the war path across Florida at that time.
Article and photographs by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at email@example.com
This article can be found at: https://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2015-aug-exploring-the-first-coast-macclenny